Chasing the Chasers: Dover
Round three of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series found the Chasers heading to Dover International Speedway for 400 laps of trying to outsmart the monster.
Started fourth and finished seventh. Going for an unprecedented three straight wins to open the Chase, at times looked like he would pull it off. The handling on his Toyota was not very good when it counted. His lead is down to just eight points heading into Kansas. Given his success at Chicagoland, he should be hard to beat next Sunday.
Everyone knew if you were going to win on Sunday you were going to have to beat Johnson. In the end nobody beat Johnson. He earned his third consecutive top five finish in the Chase and his eighth win at Dover. Johnson led 243 laps and dominated the second half of the race. The win sent a message to his Chase competitors don’t count them out. (-8)
I expected Kyle Busch to have a more “Kyle Busch” type day. He did lead some laps but was never in the same neighborhood of Johnson or Kenseth. Like Johnson he hasn’t finished outside the top five in the Chase but he dropped to third in the standings. (-12)
Harvick has really not been a factor in the Chase so far but he sits in fourth in the standings tied with Jeff Gordon. Harvick ran around the top 10 but they never really got his car to his liking. They didn’t exactly have the best pit stops and with track position everything, how you performed on pit road pretty much dictated your day. (-39)
Gordon started 16th but made his way into the top 10 and top five. He had a good enough car on the long runs but on the short runs they struggled. Still, Gordon is running with the top three in the standings and has fast cars. Imagine if Gordon hadn’t slid through his pit stall and finished fifth at New Hampshire. He would be just a handful points out of the lead. (-39)
I expected Biffle to run up front considering this is a track he has run well at. Instead Biffle never really challenged for the lead or the top five. He finished ninth and dropped a spot in the Chase to sixth. Kansas is a good track for him but this team has to perform well on Sunday if they want to be brought back into the Chase picture. (-41)
Newman ran top 10 most of the day and finished there. Not exactly the day he needed to gain points on the guys in front of him and now he is one race out of the lead. Newman’s top 10 finish keeps his slim hopes alive for now. (-48)
The distractions heading into Chicago coupled with less than a stellar start to the Chase has Bowyer well outside any hopes of winning the title this year. On Sunday, Bowyer used pit strategy to make his way from mid pack to the top 10. He finished 10th but he will need a lot of help if he is going to have any chance of a top five points finish this season. (-51)
The fairytale season for Kurt Busch and his team has struck midnight. They never quite hit the setup this weekend. A last minute pit crew change saw issues show up on pit road that cost Busch at least one lap for an unscheduled stop. They never could get back onto lead lap and finished 21st. (-55)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
It was looking like this was a day destined for Earnhardt. They had one of the best cars on the track and even after pit road mistake by the driver they still challenged for the win. His Chase started off with a blown engine but two top 10 finishes moved this driver up to 10th in the standings. A title is a long shot but the wins are coming for this team. (-57)
When I think Dover I assume Edwards will be contender for the win. It is a good track for Edwards and he is usually a factor for the win. This team never really had a car to compete with Joe Gibbs Racing or Hendrick Motorsports. Edwards went to the garage to repair a broken hub and with that his title hopes disappeared. (-65)
Just like Earnhardt, Logano Chase started off with a blown engine but at Dover they rebounded and finished third. They had a good car for much of the day and the adjustments on the final stop helped Logano who battled all day in the top 10. It is little consolation for Logano who many had picked as an outside favorite to win the title this year. Instead he is battling to just stay in top 10 in points. (-66)
13 is becoming a very unlucky number for Kahne. The team never really got the car handling to his liking, poor track position and engine woes Kahne finished 13th. His title hopes took a major hit last week at New Hampshire now finds himself 13th in the standings and in a major hole. (-78)